Supermarket prices are found to be highly variable

The economics ministry did a study of supermarket prices, and the results reinforce the dictum that shoppers need to be aware.

The survey found price differences of up to 161 percent in identical food items. It also found that some beach dwellers pay top prices. Playa Herradura was the most expensive place to buy an assortment of goods called the basic basket.

The survey covered 40 supermarkets, 30 that were parts of chains and 10 independents, during the first two weeks of February. Prices on 53 articles were checked.

The same items purchased in the Palí market in Heredia would cost 95,132 colons or about $191.22. But at the Automercado in Playa Herradura, the surveyors found that the price would be 121,127 colons or $243.47.

The items included fresh meat and fish, cleaning products, personal care items, bread, lard, vegetable oil and even sliced lunch meats.

In one case, checking prices on similar items, surveyors found a difference of 720 percent on a toothbrush.

In the case of white cheese, the survey found a difference of 163 percent.  Even tilapia had prices that varied by 93 percent.

Of course, all the price differences are not profit to the stores.

Merchants set their prices based on their costs, so that a store where the operator pays a much higher rent will see prices on the high side. In addition, stores that cater to expats usually carry a greater variety of products and also charge higher prices. The full survey is available on the Web site of the Ministerio de Economía Industria y Comercio.

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